BT pledges universal 10Mbps+ broadband in UK govt offer

By:
James Pearce
Published on:

BT will spend around £600 million to provide 98% of the UK with superfast broadband by 2020 in an offer it has made to the government

Openreach vanBT has made an offer that will see it make high-speed broadband available to 99% of UK premises by 2020, spending up to £600 million on the rollout.

BT made the proposal to the UK government which, if accepted, will see infrastructure arm Openreach provide speeds of at least 10Mbps to 1.4 million rural homes that have been left behind previously. It would then pledge to supply universal coverage by 2022.

The UK government has pledged to connect the final 5% of homes that do not have access to faster internet with improved speeds from 2020 onwards. It pledged to introduce a universal service obligation that would have allowed customers to demand speeds of 10Mbps.

The government said this pledge would stay in place even if it opts to strike a deal with BT, saying any legal obligation should be transferred to BT in the event of any agreement.

“We warmly welcome BT’s offer and now will look at whether this or a regulatory approach works better for homes and businesses,” said the culture secretary Karen Bradley. “Whichever of the two approaches we go with in the end, the driving force behind our decision-making will be making sure we get the best deal for consumers.”

BT’s pledge follows the release of an MPs report into the state of the UK’s broadband, which claimed as many as 6.7 million residents experienced broadband speeds below the 10Mbps figure. The report, led by MP Grant Shapps and signed by 56 of his colleagues, claimed Ofcom’s current connectivity data “fails to distinguish between the take-up and availability of superfast broadband”.

According to figures from satellite firm ViaSat, 72% of British consumers do not think the government is doing enough to meet future broadband needs, with most believing speeds should, on average, be around 60Mbps.

BT claims it is already well on its way, with 95% of premises able to access speeds of 24Mbps or faster by the end of 2017.

It proposes using a range of technologies to deliver the service, including fibre to the cabinet, fibre to the home and fixed wireless. It will recoup its investment through charges for rivals accessing its network.

BT chief executive Gavin Patterson said: “We are pleased to make a voluntary offer to deliver the Government’s goal for universal broadband access at minimum speeds of 10Mbps.

“This would involve an estimated investment of £450m - £600m depending on the final technology solution.

“This investment will reinforce the UK’s status as the leading digital economy in the G20. We already expect 95% of homes and businesses to have access to superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps or faster by the end of 2017. Our latest initiative aims to ensure that all UK premises can get faster broadband, even in the hardest to reach parts of the UK.”